Open Europe Blog

The Government on Friday published an annual report that reveals which, and how many, EU crime, justice and immigration laws the UK signed up to between December 2009 and December 2010.

The report states (p4) that the Coalition Government has opted in to eight new EU justice and home affairs laws since coming to power in May 2010, including the hugely controversial European Investigation Order, a new “IT Agency” to oversee the EU’s vast crime and immigration databases (with start-up costs of around €113m), and granting United States’ authorities access to European citizens’ banking data under the so-called SWIFT agreement.

These are all transfers of power from the UK to the EU but Ministers were free to sign up to them without any democratic checks – Parliament had no say.

The Coalition has said it wants to operate a case-by-case policy of deciding whether to opt in to new EU justice and home affairs laws. Well last week’s report shows what that policy amounts to in practice. Of 13 decisions whether to ‘opt in’ or not, the Government opted in 8 times. That’s an opt in percentage of 62%.

The Government’s record so far would suggest then that the UK will continue to play a major part in the EU’s ever-expanding role in justice and home affairs. But under the current EU Bill, Parliament and voters have no say over the steady steam of laws that are transferring power over British justice and immigration policy to the EU level.

This is why amending the EU Bill is so important. Allowing the status quo to continue simply widens the democratic deficit between the Government and the general public on these crucial issues. Crime, justice and immigration are important to people and voters do not expect their Government to have free reign to hand over powers to the EU in these areas.

We hope that as many MPs as possible make their voices heard when these issues are debated tomorrow and that they impress on the Government the need for Parliament and voters to have more say over this crucial aspect of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

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